Plot: On a cold, snow covered night, a mysterious stranger bursts into the inn at a small, isolated village and requests a room. A traveler seeking solace from the elements is not uncommon of course, but no one like this stranger has ever walked in. He is dressed in a strange manner, with gloves, dark glasses, and his face wrapped in bandages, as if he wants no part of him to be seen. After he rents the room, the others talk about his odd appearance and the consensus is that he might be an escaped prison, which would account for his masked appearance. The man turns out to be Dr, Griffin (Claude Rains), an eccentric scientist who has turned his room into a lab of sorts, which of course the proprietors aren’t thrilled about. He just wants to be left alone to work, but between his lack of payment and rather rude antics, Griffin has drawn the ire of the locals and finds himself pressured to leave…

Entertainment Value: I’ve always loved The Invisible Man and while it isn’t as horror driven as most of the Universal Monsters, the movie feels right at home in that lineup and deserves the status of a classic. The scene where Griffin reveals his secret is an inarguable iconic moment in cinema, made all the more remarkable by how well the visuals have held up. Much like Creature from the Black Lagoon, there is immense b movie fun to be had here, but it also manages to avoid most of the negative aspects of the genre. As I said, the special effects remain quite impressive and they’re in frequent use, in all kinds of creative ways. The invisible element isn’t just a one hit wonder, as we see numerous scenes that make use of that potential and most are creative, not to mention quite fun to watch. But there’s more here than special effects, as we also have a current of dark humor, some effective suspense, and an eerie, sometimes manic atmosphere that keeps the entire experience on edge. James Whale’s masterful direction balances the dark threads with bursts of humor, which is not an easy task to pull, but he does so here with great skill.

One of the main reasons The Invisible Man hits that sweet spot on balance is the man in the titular role here, Claude Rains. This role would have been an easy one to take over the top, but Rains walks the line well and is able to convey menace, humor, and an odd, manic vibe that seems like an ideal cocktail for Dr. Griffin. His nervous energy is such a cool component here, especially when it manifests into that crazed laugh, a truly iconic performance. Una O’Connor also has a fun performance here, while others on the cast include Gloria Stuart, William Harrigan, and Henry Travers, who also put in some terrific work in supporting roles. But without question, this is Rains’ show and he makes the most of the spotlight in The Invisible Man. I hold the movie as a true classic and while it has expert craftsman and execution, The Invisible Man is also just flat out a super fun movie to watch.

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